Category Archives: Featured

Christmas bells and music

The Wonders of Christmas. . .

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas!

This is a very familiar text for us. These words fill us with wonder every year and have inspired countless hymns, songs, movies and plays.  One of our favorite family traditions during December is to watch Christmas movies. We love the classics: Charlie Brown, The Grinch, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story. The list goes on and on.  We gather around, family and friends, enjoying eggnog, hot cocoa, and other special Christmas treats and laugh out loud at the mishaps of the Griswold family, quote Charlie Brown, and cheer words of encouragement to George Bailey. These movies bring us together.  In all these movies Christmas never goes as planned and often is a complete disaster. Although these movies feature a dramatic and comedic flare, just like our real lives we experience struggles, challenges, and things rarely, if ever, go exactly as planned. Another relatable and genuine aspect of these movies is that regardless of what happens during the preparation time in December, Christmas always happens, and people learn that Christmas means more than presents and bright lights. In these holiday favorites, Christmas may be a complete disaster for the characters: lights that don’t light, a sad tree that just needs a little love, an empty pantry with not even a crumb left for a mouse, but we know Christmas will still happen.  The Whos will still gather in the Whoville square, hold hands, and sing Christmas carols. Love will still be felt. Christ will still be born and will forever mean “God is with us.”

Jesus’s birth was also full of mishaps and drama: an unwed teen mother, a last minute trip, a dirty stable, and flight to Egypt.  Nothing stopped Jesus from being born, because nothing can stop God from entering into our world.  God’s love is strong and overcomes all the obstacles we create around it. On Christmas day we celebrate God incarnate in the baby Jesus.

God’s Blessings to all of you during this wondrous, meaningful, dramatic and faithful season.

Yours in Christ~ Pastor Erik

 

 

Christmas Rejoice

UPCOMING: Fun Events & Bible Study Times

News,  events & Christmas services:

 

Christmas Wreaths: You can make an order at the church on Sundays, or in the office Monday – Thursday, by Dec. 2nd. They will be distributed on Sunday, Dec. 9th. The cost is $20 and the proceeds will go to Youth Ministry.

  • Dec. 2nd, WELCA Bake Sale in the Fellowship Hall.  Also, in the evening, there will be a Lessons & Caroles Fest @ Gehtsemane 6pm.
  • Dec. 4th, Tuesday, Traditional Lutefisk & Meatball Dinner at Gethsemane, 3-7pm!
  • Dec. 7th  7pm, Choralaires Concert @OSLC, and they will be at Gethsemane Dec. 14th, 7pm.
  • Dec. 9th will be our Youth Christmas Program.
  • Dec. 12th Christmas Caroling – meet here at 5:45pm! All are invited~
  • Dec. 14th – Choralaires Concert @ Gethsemane, 7pm.
  • Dec. 20th there will be a Blue Christmas Service here @ 5pm.
  • Dec. 23rd there will be a Christmas Music Extravaganza during our regular worship time @ 9:30am.
  • Our Christmas Eve Service will be at 4:00pm. There will be services at Gethsemane at 3:30, 5:30, 10pm.
  • Messiah Lutheran’s Christmas Day Service will be at 10am.
Advent Candles in the snow with evergreen branches red berries and a snowy forest in the background. Christmas Eve all five candles lighted.  The Prophecy, love,   rose or joy,  peace, and central white "purity"   candles are lit.

Youth Announcements – Winter is upon us!

Happy Holidays!


I am incredibly excited to start the season of advent with you all! The month of November was busy for our youth, and December is going to be even more eventful! Again, our Sunday school will be putting on the Christmas program on December 9th! It will be wonderful telling of Jesus’ birth—performed by all members of our program with some songs mixed in! Our children have been working diligently over the past few weeks, and are excited to show our Congregation! After our program we will spend the last few Sundays of the Advent season going over details in the Christmas story, as well as creating all sorts of crafts!

Confirmation students are in for a change with the season as well! Starting on December 5th Our Savior’s will be hosting Confirmation classes! We have had a wonderful time at Messiah, but I’m excited to bring the joy of our fellowship to our building! We had 13 youth attend the Middle School Youth Gathering at Cragun’s a few weeks ago! We had a blessed time worshipping with youth across our synod, and had a blast with all the fun activities the LYO board had planned for us! On December 12th we will have our Christmas and caroling event, which will include all of our Confirmation students going to Assisted Living Facilities to spread the Christmas cheer that is starting to build up in our hearts! Drivers are still needed for this event to help transport students to each place! Once we have sung our last carol we will come back to Our Savior’s to celebrate in fellowship with Hot Cocoa and snacks!

Our Confirmation program also hosts a meal on Wednesdays before class in which all are welcome to attend, this also means we need volunteers to help with these meals! If you have any interest please reach out to me.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Ben

Confirmation classes will start meeting at OSLC in December on Wednesdays at 6:30pm as usual!

 

 

christmas and thanksgiving

Giving Thanks. . .

 

2 Corinthians 9:11

11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Psalm 107:8-9

8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Happy Thanksgiving! This week I especially pray for you and all people to experience on overflow of generosity- both generosity from and generosity toward.  I pray for you to have a generous portion of kindness, compassion, quality time, rest and relaxation, love, peace, and good food. Our national day of Thanksgiving is centered on giving thanks to God for all the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Just as God has acted generously towards each of us in our lives and faith, let us reflect God’s generous character to our families and neighbors.

God Bless you~ Pr. Erik

group prayer artistic layer

All people. . .

Mark 9:38-40

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.  40 Whoever is not against us is for us.

 There are an estimated 40,000 different Christian denominations in the world. That is a lot! The majority of the 40,000 are small splinter groups from mainline denominations or they are unaffiliated stand-alone congregations. For me, it is interesting to think about how one Bible is the authority of so many different groups. Different groups mean different theological interpretations, different points of emphasis, and different ways of worship. A look at the nightly news and basic study of history shows that people often look towards other denominations with suspicion and even aggression. World history headlines from the past two thousand years show that these differences have directly led to, or at least played a role in major wars resulting in countless tragedies. This reading from Mark 9 firmly directs us to reexamine how we interact with and treat people from other Christian traditions. Simply stated, Jesus tells us that different is ok. The name of Jesus is what truly matters, and the name of Jesus is what transcends cultural, linguistic, and ethnic differences in order to bring all people together.

This week, I invite everyone to have a conversation with someone from a different Christian tradition to share something about church or worship style and to also learn something new about another group.

A few years ago I heard an excellent sermon which used the phrase, “remember, different people are not a failed attempt at being you. All people are unique expressions of being children of God.”

With grace~ Pastor Erik

Autumn Maple leaf transition and variation concept for fall and change of season

The Changing Season

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Every day I notice the maple tree in my front yard gets a few more red and yellow leaves on it. When the tree first started turning, I was dismayed and even a bit upset. I want to tell the tree that it is WAY too early. I’m not ready! Summer is not over yet. There are still summer events, destinations and projects on my to-do-list. Autumn means school is starting, rally day, confirmation, committee meetings, etc. Where did the time go? However, I only grumbled for a day or two, then I began viewing the colorful tree in a different way. I began viewing the tree with enthusiasm and joy, because it means that school is starting, confirmation will begin, the new committee structure will be presented and get into full action, and all the church people will be back in the pews on Sundays. Getting back into “full-church-mode” (quote from my grandma) is something to be very enthusiastic and joyful about. Full-church-mode is a good thing. It means the Spirit is active.

Speaking of my to-do-list, here are some updates I want to communicate with all of you.

  • Our new Director of Youth and Christian Education, Ben Anderson, will be formally joining our ministry team on September 5th and Rally Sunday will be his first Sunday at Our Saviors! I know last December my family and I felt very welcomed by the church (I still feel very welcomed) and I know you’ll show the same generosity, kindness, and hospitality to Ben.
  • Rally Sunday is Sept 9th! We will have a bouncy house, games and snacks after worship. During worship we will celebrate our youth by giving Bibles. We will also recognize the wonderful Eucharist team. Sunday school will begin the following Sunday. Full-church-mode!
  • OSLC, Gethsemane, and Messiah will have confirmation together this year. This has been a big project in the making with lots of meetings and communication amongst the churches. I think that all the kids will benefit from having a large group of friends, guides, pastors and mentors walking with them in their faith journey. There are too many details to list and I am personally communicating with the confirmation families about dates and questions. It is going to be great!
  • I am going to join our synod’s companion team trip to Honduras the first week in October. As you all know, Global Mission is a passion of mine and I am very excited about participating in this program. Several pastors from our synod are going to be leading theology, church administration, and pastoral-care workshops for newly ordained Honduran pastors. I will invite you to participate in a fund-raiser during September for a portion of the trip’s cost.
  • Later in September, Pastor Amy Odgren from the Synod office will visit with the church councils of OSLC, Gethsemane, and Messiah and lead a visioning discussion about ministry, stewardship, and where is the Holy Spirit is leading our three congregations in the future.

I want to thank all of you for your faithfulness, grace, and kind words. There is a lot to look forward to and be excited about. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please let me know. You are the church and I am always looking for ways to serve the church better and more efficiently.

Autumn Blessings ~ Pastor Erik

blessed1

Blessed & Overjoyed

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I hope your summer is going well. It is hard to believe August is already upon us. The past two weeks went by especially quick. I was able to spend a week visiting my family in WI as well as attend a conference at Luther Seminary entitled “Rethinking Stewardship- from solemn obligation to inspired choice.” Playing card and board games into the wee hours of the morning with my family, picking cherries with Nozomi and Ronin, enjoying nature, and watching sunrises and sunsets over the harbor were the highlights of my vacation. I am also looking forward to sharing with you what I learned at the rethinking stewardship conference. I feel like the past two weeks have refreshed by soul.

I am very grateful for the past two weeks because congregational life for the foreseeable future is shaping up to be busy and eventful. Notably, a priority for us is to find a new person to direct our youth and family ministries. We surely miss Meagan, but we excitedly await the unique gifts and talents of our next colleague in Christ. We currently have several advertisements about the position, and we are hopeful to fill the position soon. If an intriguing person comes to mind, please encourage that person to check out all the details about the position from our website or give the church office a call. I am confident in God’s guidance and joyfully looking forward to where the Holy Spirit leads us next. In the meantime, I ask for your prayers, patience and continued participation in the congregation.

I also want to use this month’s newsletter to share with you my thoughts about the ELCA churches here in the Quad Cities. For many years, there has been interest and conversation about churches collaborating in shared ministry as well as even merging together. Because merging together is a very serious subject, and there are lots of emotions and details involved I want to be as open and straight forward as possible. Interest in having these conversations and working together to develop proposals has recently been renewed. To be clear, so far there haven’t been any formal conversations about merging. I invite OSLC into an intentional time of prayer and discernment about hopes, dreams and goals. I’d like to frame this discernment in terms of stewardship. A theological point to make is the church and all its resources belongs to God. God has called us and entrusted us to use, manage, and share God’s resources as efficiently as possible.  We are guided by the Holy Spirit-and God continuously invites us to participate with God in God’s mission.

Your thoughts and feedback are valuable and needed. Please share them with me. I will keep the congregation informed if any formal conversations are scheduled.

I am so blessed to be part of this loving community of faith. I am overjoyed and honored to be called to serve as your pastor, and I am excited to see what God will do next. Enjoy the rest of the summer.      Enjoy your family and friends and God’s beautiful creation.

Your fellow servant in Christ~ Pastor Erik

trust 2

Trust. . . Believe

John 6:35, 41-51

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

 41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

             We are currently in the midst of the “bread of life” lectionary series. I want to point out a few things to help make more sense of Jesus’ message and the imagery. In verse 49, Jesus references the time of the exodus when Moses lead the people from Egypt to the “Promised Land.” While on their journey the people complained about being hungry and God provided them with manna to eat. At its heart, the manna story is about trust in God. Scripture tell us that manna had to be collected according to the instructions God gave (Exodus 16:16-26), so obeying God’s instructions served as a way for the people to learn to trust God. Deuteronomy summarizes the story this way: “Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you not your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).

New Testament scholar Susan Hylen wrote, “The Greek word pisteuo, which is translated “believe” throughout John, was more commonly used to convey a trusting relationship. Thus, even though John is concerned that readers understand that Jesus is who he claims to be, pisteuo might better be translated as “trust” in these verses. John emphasizes throughout the Gospel that the audience should trust the witnesses to Jesus, along with Jesus’ own words and signs, and through these things come to trust in Jesus. This sense of the word pisteuo is surely in play in John 6:35, 47. The one who trusts in Jesus feeds on the bread of life. Like the manna, trust is required to access the life Jesus offers.”[1]

God’s peace to you all. Have a blessed week and trust/believe that God will continue to take care of you.

Blessings~ Pastor Erik

[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3742

Vision-kills-Ultron-Light

The all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God is always accompanying us. . .

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There are many thank-you notes, and words of congratulations to share. First, I want to thank all the people who helped make the Houston trip possible for our young men and women. By Meagan’s leadership and resourcefulness, all the participants will have faithful and meaningful memories to carry with them forever. The success of this trip truly was a whole congregation effort because everyone provided prayers and resources. Secondly, I want to send a huge thank you too all the people who participated in the clothing sale. It was a lot of hard work, but well worth it. I know many people are grateful for the kindness and generosity that Our Savior’s shows to the community. Finally, words of congratulations to all those who graduated. Well done. God is using you and your gifts to further God’s Kingdom.

I can confidently say that our congregation is doing well. Everyday I see and hear about acts of kindness, love, humility, excitement, and inclusiveness. I am very honored to be part of this church. Even though our congregation is doing well, we all notice that there are relational, environmental and political challenges, struggles and heartbreak in other parts of our county and world. In reflection of these wider issues I want to direct you to chapters 4, 5 and 6 from the gospel of Mark. We will also be reading these chapters in worship on Sundays for the next couple weeks. While you read, whenever you come across the words fear, afraid, terrified, I encourage you to get out your highlighter or pen and circle that word. Examine who the characters are who are fearful and take notice of what they do because of their fear. One of the topics from these chapters in Mark is the topic of fear and specifically how people react to fear. I’m writing about this topic because it seems to me the most troubling issues of 2018 are related to people reacting to fear in hurtful and unhealthy ways. I hope by studying the Bible and Gospel message, we can equip ourselves and help equip others to use our faith and react to fear with confidence and grace.

Throughout these chapters in Mark, we often see the hurtful and unhealthy ways in which people, especially the disciples, reacted to fear. I will point out a few of these examples (there are several more that you can uncover through study). When Jesus Stills the Storm in Mark 4:35-41, we see the disciple reacting with hopelessness and accusing Jesus of not caring about them.  The swineherds from chapter 5 were afraid and their reaction to fear was to reject Jesus and beg him to leave their neighborhood. Because it is such a dynamic story, most people are familiar with the verses about Jesus walking on the water in chapter 6. A detail that most people miss from that story is that the disciple’s response to fear and not-understanding is simply to harden their hearts. Later in Chapter 9:30-33, the disciples didn’t understand Jesus’ teaching and were afraid to ask him to clarify so they were silent. Their reaction to fear was ignorance.

Simply put, faith enables us to face our fears with bravery and confidence because we know that the all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God is always accompanying us. By reading these chapters together and reflecting on them, I am confident we can face our fears with grace, wisdom, and compassion. When people are not trained to use their faith they often react to fear by being hopeless, judgmental, violent, ignorant and reject Christ himself.

There are two messages of good news for you today. The first is – you have faith. God has given faith to you and you can rely in your faith to get you through the most frightening issues. The second is – even if you fail and succumb to let fear guide you, God will never give up on you. The disciples constantly failed, but God never abandoned them. God will never abandon you either. God loves you and always will.

Have a Blessed Summer~ Pastor Erik

kids helping kids

Be Bold in Your Love. . .

Amos 2:7 5:24 and 6:4-6

2:7“they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals — they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way”

5:24  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

6:4-6 Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; Who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; Who drink wine from bowl, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, But are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!

                Whoa! Amos is being quite bold in his words. Some questions to ask ourselves today. What will God do in response to the cruelty and greed expressed by people? (Please read all of Amos and find out)

Is life today in 2018 much different than mid-700 B.C.? What is God going to do next?

We are going to read part of Amos this Sunday. I love Amos because of his bold courage and because of his deep concern and love for others. His concern and love are often overshadowed because of the harshness of his words, but his love is revealed by urging people to repent and lead humble and generous lives in order to avoid calamity.

A commentary by professor Elaine James helps to clarify. “As theologian James Cone writes, ‘Most theological treatments of God’s love fail to place the proper emphasis on God’s wrath, suggesting that love is completely self-giving without any demand for obedience. Bonhoeffer called this ‘cheap grace.’  1. God’s love demands righteousness, and breaches of God’s call to justice and love cause God grief. As Amos is keen to show us, God is not indifferent to human suffering, oppression, and injustice. Cone goes on: ‘The wrath of God is the love of God in regard to the forces opposed to liberation of the oppressed.’  2. God’s judgment, for Amos, is a manifestation of relationship with a living God, a God of passion who deeply cares.”

I hope everyone has a great week. Be bold in your love. Blessings~ Pastor Erik

Amos article

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3700